The operations director of the future First Ascent Climbing Gym is finally ready to be on-record with the projected opening of the gym that is currently under construction.
“We’ll be open mid-August,” says Dan Bartz.
It’s a relief for Bartz to give a definite answer to the question that many in the climbing and fitness communities are asking. As indoor climbing continues to grow all over the world, First Ascent is set to fill a gap—even with last year’s opening of Brooklyn Boulders in the West Loop—as the demand for this vertically minded sport increases in Chicago.
Community Is Invited As Preparations Continue
As First Ascent prepares for its opening, it has just launched an updated website, plans on offering hardhat tours to the public—and focused private tours for groups from various industries in the community, like restaurants, education, fitness and others—and is erecting the climbing walls within the facility.
The walls that climbers will ascend are manufactured by Walltopia, a company at the forefront of climbing wall technology headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria. During my two hardhat visits to the construction site, the naked steel framing on the first day was covered halfway up by my second visit a week later.
Technologically Advanced Walls
Along with the speed climbing wall that will allow for international competitions, a dedicated bouldering area on the second floor, the 60-foot tall wall and the arch that rainbows 45 feet off the gym’s floor, the most intriguing feature of the Walltopia installation is the Harmonized Wall System. The HWS allows climbing gyms all over the world that have this system installed to sync through a network, allowing route setters to share their routes without having to leave their respective gyms. Imagine being able to climb a route set by a world-class climber like Chris Sharma and being able to share in the creativity of other route setters outside the Midwest. By mid-August there will be nothing left to the imagination.
Climbing Royalty Is Coming
Speaking of Sharma—a modern climbing god who has pioneered some of today’s hardest sport climbing routes and recently finished filming major stunt work for the upcoming remake of Point Break—he will be on hand as part First Ascent’s grand opening events later this fall; members who purchase qualifying pre-sale memberships have a chance to be part of a climbing session involving Sharma.
Following the gym’s opening, the space will also welcome not just climbers, but also fitness enthusiasts and those seeking the guidance of personal trainers who will specialize in developing functional mobility, strength and power through Olympic-style lifting, group yoga and movement classes.
Not Just A Place To Climb
During my time with Bartz and co-operations director Dave Hudson, words like passionate, excited and dedicated came up often when talking about the gym’s future and climbing in general. They’re so passionate that they’re already opening a second, bouldering-only gym in Uptown, which they hope is completed by the fall. When speaking to them about climbing in Chicago, the thing that stand out is that they’re looking to funnel that passion and excitement to help create an all-inclusive experience at First Ascent where anyone who comes to the gym feels welcomed into this socially driven sport that connects people from all walks of life.
To help create this sense of community, First Ascent will be actively engaged with non-profits like the Access Fund, youth outreach like Future Founders, and local small businesses like Sugar Hills Bakery and the Chicago Slackliners Association.
Pretty soon, the vision of a few that architecture firm Fitzgerald Associates created the blueprints for and the Missner Group is in the process of building will be on the map as one of the nation’s nicest indoor climbing facilities. Logan Square gets lucky again.
See The Progress
Dan Bartz has been documenting the progress of the gym’s construction from the ground up. Check out First Ascent’s Vimeo channel that features some fun time-lapse movies of the building taking shape: https://vimeo.com/firstascentclimbing.